Love and violence in new play that explores troubled history

Arts Week with Judy Murphy –

Days of Darkness, the latest drama from city based community theatre group, Alâ will be staged at An Taibhdhearc Theatre from April 3-5.

It follows their success last November with a re-imagining of the story of the pirate queen, Gráinne Mhaol, which was presented in St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church.

With this new play, the company, which was set up to address social issues, again takes Ireland and its mythologies as subject matter and again the piece is being written and directed by Gerry Conneely.

“The idea was to do a series of four new plays and we started with Granuaile and The Pages of History to explore the mother/woman myth,” Gerry explains on a break from rehearsals.

“We are a forum theatre group, so we take on issues from contemporary life and we deal with them,” he adds.

Days of Darkness is set in the 1970s and its subject is darker than Granuaile and the Pages of History. It examines the development of a revolutionary republican group from its inception to its eventual disintegration through betrayal and fragmentation.

“We are exploring republicanism, nationalism and Marxism through a young couple who get tied up with the Troubles in a small left-wing group like the INLA. Both their lives are negatively impacted by their involvement,” Gerry says.

Days of Darkness explores a range of issues, including identity, religion, socialism and nationalism in the context of the Northern Ireland conflict. It also analyses the devastating impact of violence on the lives of its two central characters. Its message to the audience is not to forget the past because if when that happens, people are destined to repeat it.

That message is particularly relevant at present, with the rise of splinter republican groups following the Northern Ireland peace agreement. Many of these have formed relationships with criminal gangs in Dublin and in other cities and towns and, as the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising looms these groups are, to paraphrase Gerry Adams, “not going away”.

Given that there are so many young people out there who have no memory of the dark days of the 1970s, it’s important to inform them of how these paramilitary groups affected society in Ireland, both North and South, says Gerry.

The subject matter is undoubtedly serious, but it is treated humorously and lightly, according to Kinvara man, Gerry, who has extensive experience working with community theatre groups in Ireland.

“It’s as much a play about love as it is about politics,” he observes.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.